Commentary

The Talented Mr. Roto: Time to label the hot and cold starters

Updated: April 25, 2009, 9:31 AM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

I don't get it.

Mike Brown is named coach of the year in the NBA for leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA-best 66-16 record. It's not that I think he didn't do a good job. Clearly he did. But when all is said and done, he got one, count it, one more win than the Lakers' Phil Jackson.

The knock on Jackson, of course, is that he has great talent, and anyone can win with Kobe. But Brown has LeBron James, who is as good if not better than Kobe Bryant.

OK, so both teams won about the same number of games, and both have elite players. Jackson, however, had one of his best players (Andrew Bynum) miss almost half the season, while Brown had no significant injuries to deal with. And then, of course, there are the conferences in which they play. Jackson's Lakers play in the West, where the 46-36 Phoenix Suns didn't even make the playoffs. But in the East, they would have been a game out of the fourth seed.

So let me get this straight: Brown is coach of the year for winning one more game in a weaker conference, and dealing with fewer injuries, than Phil Jackson? Drives me crazy as a sports fan, as a Lakers fan, as a fan of fairness. Go Lakers. And I'll tell you, speaking again as a Lakers fan, I hope the Lakers get the Cavs in the Finals. Because we'll beat the Cavaliers just like we did in the regular season. The East team that actually scares me is Orlando.

But back to Phil, all he does is win. Every year. No respect, no props … Jackson didn't even seem to be in the conversation for coach of the year. Clearly, we all have different ideas of what makes a great coach.

Which brings us to fantasy sports -- hey, I've told you before I'd write about whatever was on my mind … at least this one is sports-related -- where there are a million different strategies to win, and many of them work. The kind of coach you are also depends on the kind of team you have. I have 10 teams this year, and most of them are doing well. But a couple of them, including my Tout Wars team, are off to brutal starts.

There is no blanket strategy for any team. Being patient or totally panicking or somewhere in between … everything is dependent upon your specific players, your league, your rules (Is it daily or weekly? Roto or head-to-head? Mixed or single-league? What categories do you use?) and so on. So I can't speak to your specific team. And I really don't think you care about mine.

Between all the stuff we are doing for the NFL draft (Fantasy football is now open! My updated Top 200 is live!) and me being sick last week and falling behind on a bunch of stuff, I find myself with an hour to write this week's column. ("Right, Matthew, but what's the excuse for it sucking every other week?")

But I will say that, generally, I don't start thinking about any major fantasy trades until around May 15, and I probably wouldn't pull the trigger on one until June 1 or so. I also don't pay attention to the standings until the middle of May either, even though I do keep an eye on my teams' batting average, ERA and WHIP in Roto leagues.

So with sample sizes still small and the season just a few weeks in, it seems now would be a good time to announce a few "All-something" teams. We're not gonna talk about your teams, and I don't wanna talk about mine, but perhaps we can all agree on the teams below. They are based on ESPN 10-team standard mixed leagues (5x5, Roto scoring) and where appropriate, ownership percentages are in parentheses.

The All-Be-Patient team

Here's a team of players I am being patient with; I'm not worried about their slow starts. Nor am I trading them.

Alexei Ramirez
Jerry Lai/US PresswireNo way is Matthew giving up on Alexei Ramirez yet.
C Geovany Soto, Cubs
1B Chris Davis, Rangers
2B Alexei Ramirez, White Sox: Hit .138 in April 2008, and then took off.
SS Orlando Cabrera, A's: Traditionally a slow starter.
3B Edwin Encarnacion, Reds: You didn't draft him for average anyway, and you know the power will be there.
OF Rick Ankiel, Cardinals
SP CC Sabathia, Yankees: Was brutal last April, too.
RP Troy Percival, Rays: It was never going to be pretty.

The All-Oh-Crap-Go-Ahead-And-Panic team

A bunch of guys whom I'm genuinely worried about. If you can find a good replacement or trade for close to full value, I would go ahead and do so.

C Taylor Teagarden, Rangers: A trendy preseason sleeper, he's owned in most two-catcher leagues. But he's on the wrong side of the platoon and isn't hitting, and the Rangers have Max Ramirez waiting in the minors.
1B Billy Butler, Royals: It's one thing not to hit for power, it's another not to hit at all.
2B Howie Kendrick, Angels: And he's healthy. That's the scary part.
SS J.J. Hardy, Brewers: The power is there, clearly, but if the average isn't going to go up, he's a lot less valuable. You must also consider that he had two different seasons where he hit less than .250 (although they were a few years ago.)
3B Carlos Guillen, Tigers: He's just not as good as you think he is. And hasn't been for a year.
OF Cameron Maybin, Marlins: Still very young, and there's no longer a need for him to lead off.
SP Cole Hamels, Phillies: The park, the home runs, the injury concerns, all the work he put in last year, having to leave his last start early …
RP B.J. Ryan: Blue Jays: It pains me to admit this.

The All-Needs-To-Be-Owned team

A bunch of guys who are available in at least 75 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues, and shouldn't be.

C Kurt Suzuki, A's (owned in 5 percent of leagues): He's hitting .327 and playing every day. John Buck (14.6 percent) and John Baker (24.6 percent) are honorable mentions here.
1B Mike Jacobs, Royals (26 percent; so I cheated): Hitting for average and power. The average won't last, but the power will.
2B Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians (19 percent): Qualifies here and at shortstop and is hitting .318 with a little pop and a little speed.
SS Yunel Escobar, Braves (26 percent; I cheated again): A career .300 hitter, so the average will come up, and he has solid speed and power.
3B Josh Fields, White Sox (8 percent): We know the power is real, he's hitting well in the No. 2 hole, and he currently sports a .286 average.
OF Scott Hairston, Padres (4 percent): Has two home runs and two steals, and he's hitting better than .400. Obviously the average will come back to earth, but he is playing about every day, and the pop and speed are legit.
SP Glen Perkins, Twins (11 percent): Start him only at home until he proves he can pitch on the road, but he's a great matchup start who, if he is not on your bench, will be tough to grab for home starts.
RP Rafael Soriano, Braves (10 percent): Has two saves so far, and Mike Gonzalez is no sure thing, especially from a health perspective. Even if Soriano is not closing, he's a good enough reliever to help out in other categories.

The All-Needs-To-Be-Dropped team
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Players owned in at least 75 percent of leagues who need to be dropped since there likely are better options available on the waiver wire.

C Ryan Doumit, Pirates (89 percent): Gonna be three months before he is back healthy and in the swing of things. That's way too long to wait for a catcher in a shallow league.
1B Conor Jackson, Diamondbacks (88 percent): I used to love Jackson. I was wrong.
2B Placido Polanco (92 percent): You always draft him for average and now that's not even there. He's solid but a much better real-life player than fantasy option.
SS Mike Aviles, Royals (77.9 percent): I'm not saying I don't feel for the Royals, because I do.
3B Pablo Sandoval (80 percent): If he is currently qualified, or will be soon, at catcher, that's another story. But in a 10-team mixed league, you need more than you are getting from Sandoval at the corner.
OF Lastings Milledge (60 percent): OK, a lesser percent than the 75 I claimed up top but, um, he's in the minors. Considering how small the benches are in standard leagues, you need to use those roster spots on more productive players or pitchers to stream.
SP Chien-Ming Wang (68 percent): Seriously, do I even need to write something?
RP Jason Motte (56 percent): I got bad news, kids. Ryan Franklin is your closer and that's not gonna change anytime soon.

The All-Interesting-Stat team

All stats through Wednesday, April 22

C Yadier Molina (49 percent) is hitting .340.
1B Nick Johnson (3 percent) is hitting .380. Oh, and Albert Pujols has two stolen bases.
2B Akinori Iwamura (20 percent) has five stolen bases. He's also hitting .294.
SS Khalil Greene (18 percent) is tied for fifth among shortstops in runs scored and tied for sixth in terms of RBI.
3B Mike Lowell (43 percent) is tied for the lead among third basemen in RBIs.
OF Jack Cust (32 percent) is hitting .306. It's early but if he's even halfway decent in average …
SP Mike Hampton (15 percent) has 18 strikeouts in 17 innings pitched so far.
RP Cla Meredith (1 percent) and Jason Frasor (2 percent) both have three wins and have not given up a run.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- prays the Redskins don't take Mark Sanchez. He is a five-time award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend

• Senior Fantasy analyst for ESPN
• Member, FSWA and FSTA Halls of Fame
• Best-selling author of "Fantasy Life"

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